Today, we finally open up on why Xwing was started and what we’ve been up to over the past two years.
The company’s mission is to dramatically increase human mobility via fully-autonomous, affordable and clean personal aerial vehicles.
General aviation has captured the imagination of countless people over the past century, but ultimately it has failed to live up to its promise. The pace of innovation has been slow and personal aviation remains unaffordable to the public at large. For example, the second most widely-sold piston-engine aircraft in 2017 is the venerable Cessna 172 , a 60-year-old design, and it costs $300,000. Only 3,293 general aviation aircraft, including helicopters, were delivered last year worldwide, in contrast to more than 80 million cars.
Despite these setbacks, it is apparent to any pilot that small aircraft can uniquely solve transportation problems. Our two-dimensional road infrastructure is very limiting, often clogged by traffic in large cities, and is inadequate to support the fast travel speeds that regional travel requires.
Aircraft fly in a straight line and are aerodynamically streamlined, which translates to fuel efficiency even at high speeds. While airlines have brought people and goods closer from one part of the world to another, small aircraft aviation hasn’t made a meaningful impact to regional travel.
The two main barriers to the expansion of the small aircraft industry are high costs and the need for a qualified pilot.
While most aircraft remain out of reach to the general public, the costs are almost entirely a function of volume and are thus a symptom of the problem. If a manufacturer were to build 100,000 aircraft a year, it could bring its prices down to levels more commonly seen for cars and most other costs would follow. Given that Americans make several billion long-distance road trips a year, the market could easily absorb those volumes.
The second barrier is the need for qualified pilots. Getting a license and maintaining proficiency even on a single aircraft type is time consuming and challenging. About 0.2% of the US population has a pilot license and finding qualified commercial pilots to operate fleets is increasingly difficult.
Xwing was founded on the belief that the only way to dramatically increase human mobility via small aircraft is to make them autonomous.
Removing the need for a pilot will have a significant impact in opening up the aviation market. It allows for substantial decrease in vehicle operating costs (which we will talk about in a subsequent post), increase in operational efficiency for network operations, and it opens up the market for private ownership significantly.
We see a bright future where people and places are ever more connected, where small aircraft can finally take their rightful place in the transportation landscape, and where autonomous flight will have a profound impact on society as we know it.
If you’re interested in participating in the journey, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always looking for talented and motivated individuals that want to work hard to change the world.
We’ll share more in the coming months so stay tuned.